Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab has been leading the anti-government protests since March 2011
A Bahraini Shiite woman holds a portrait of Nabeel Rajab during a demonstration in the village of Karzakan on May 11. Rajab -- facing three separate trials on charges including taking part in an illegal gathering and writing tweets deemed insulting to the government -- has been granted bail, his lawyer told AFP. © - AFP/File
Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab has been leading the anti-government protests since March 2011
AFP
Last updated: May 28, 2012

Bahrain rights activist Rajab released on bail

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, facing three separate trials on charges including taking part in an illegal gathering and writing tweets deemed insulting to the government, was granted bail on Monday, his lawyer said.

"He has just been released on bail," Mohammed al-Jishi told AFP by telephone from Manama.

He said Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was ordered to pay 300 dinars ($796) but still faces a travel ban. The hearing in the case over illegal rallies was adjourned until June 17.

Shiite Rajab was granted bail last week in the trial of posting tweets deemed insulting to security forces, over which he was arrested on May 5 upon arrival from a trip abroad.

But he was then ordered to stay behind bars for questioning in the case of taking part in a rally and calling for illegal demonstrations, according to a statement by the public prosecution last week.

On Monday, the defence asked the court to "combine the three cases together in one trial," Jishi said.

Rajab flashed the V for victory sign as he emerged from a police station in Manama, where relatives and supporters had gathered to celebrate his release.

"I was arrested because of my rights activities," he said, vowing to "continue to demand rights and defend the oppressed."

Rajab had been leading anti-government protests following a brutal crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations against the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty in March 2011.

The activist has insisted on demonstrating inside Manama, unlike the main Shiite opposition which now stages protests in Shiite villages, after last year's clampdown on protesters who occupied the capital's Pearl Square for a month.

The avid tweeter is accused of insulting the security forces in tweets that he admitted came from his account on the microblogging website.

On May 16, Rajab told the court that the charge against him was "vindictive" as more than 50 lawyers turned up to defend him.

Human Rights Watch earlier this month urged Bahraini authorities to drop charges against Rajab.

"The charges against Nabeel Rajab are nothing more than attempts to silence one of the Bahraini government's most prominent critics," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based watchdog.

Bahrain came under strong criticism from international rights organisations over last year's mid-March crackdown on demonstrations that were inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings.

An international panel commissioned by King Hamad to probe the government's clampdown found out that excessive force and torture were used against protesters and detainees.

King Hamad promised reforms, including throughout the government's security bodies, while a number of policemen have been put on trial over torture.

Amnesty International estimates that 60 people have been killed since protests broke out on February 14 last year.

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